November 17, 2008 – Welcome to Crushville, population 15,000. Playing well into their third decade, Metalllica brought the pummel-fest as the World Magentic Tour came to the big house of the Scottrade Center in St. Louis.
James Hetfield and crew brought the sonic destruction to a legion of fans, from die-hards sporting shirts that dated back to the Reagan administration to youngsters who may well have been throwing up the devil horns for the very first time.
I don't know about you, but for big shows like this, I shoot a lot. I enter arena-mode and start cranking. Like 2-3 times as much as I might for a normal three-song shoot.
The band played in-the-round on the floor of the arena. When I saw the stage from the media-holding area at the edge of the floor, I was a little surprised that it wasn't larger.
Overall, the size was relatively manageable, especially considering that the first-three songs seemed to stretch out for a good 15-20 minutes.
The first song started out in almost complete darkness, with singer James Hetfield lit by a constrasty uplighting and a background lattice of green lasers. This initial lighting scheme made picking on a subject an automatic decision, since Hetfield was the only action in town.
The second and third songs gave way to beautiful white light, with various tints thrown in during their duration, but nothing too bad. The second song of this set was essentially pure, abundant white light and the easiest to shoot. Overall, great lighting.
Needless to say, the choosing a subject was made much more difficult in the second and third songs, with one subject multiplying to four – and not just four in one place or side, but scattered all over the sprawling stage.
Microphones were set up at 10-12 stations around the perimeter of the stage, and Hetfield made the rounds for his vocal duties. The other members of the band also covered plenty of stage, though not to an unreasonable degree. Despite large monitors forming at the edge of the stage, there were generally large enough gaps that they weren't terribly problematic.
Naturally, drummer Lars Ulrich was in the most stationary position, seated at his kit at the center of the stage, and acted as the one constant during the first three songs.
I shot this performance with the Nikon D3 and D700, using the 24-70mm f/2.8, 14-24mm f/2.8, and 70-200mm f/2.8. Of these three, the 24-70mm was the most utilitarian, though that didn't stop me from trying to stick the 14-24mm on as much as possible.
The 70-200mm f/2.8 was the least used of the three, but did come in handy for tighter shots of James Hetfield and for picking up Lars Ulrich. With the exception of Ulrich, the band was relatively close most of the time, so shorter focal lengths excelled in this shoot.
As an aside, Metallica have one of the most massive photo passes I've ever seen. As a fellow photog suggested, “They might as well have given us t-shirts.” I think Metallica's pass even beat's that from The Police, which was previously the reigning champ in my stack.
Here's a shot of the enormous photo pass from the show, alongside some other passes for reference:
The Morrissey pass (third from the left) is what most concert photographer's would recognize as a regularly-sized pass. One size up, and there's the pass for The Police's 2007 reunion tour, which was previously the biggest pass I'd received.
The Metallica pass weighs in at about 2.5 times as large as the standard. It's a little bigger than my Nikon D3. I've also included Interpol's press pass for their 2007 tour as references to show the full spectrum.
This set was fun. And by fun, I mean awesome.